Our Team

Our teachers are passionate, highly-qualified educators, who are forever-learners devoted to the craft of early childhood education. We work together to accomplish our goals and take action to make our community stronger.

"At Early Partners I know that my voice matters, my contributions are important, and that I am truly valued as an educator. I have learned more about child development and child-led learning in one year here, than in the rest of my teaching career. Being part of the Early Partners team inspires me every day to dig deeper into my journey as an educator."

Meet our Founder!

Kim Frusciante (she/her) is the Founder & CEO of Early Partners and also serves on the Board. Kim has over 15 years of experience in school leadership and teacher training. She has a B.A. from Tulane University and Masters of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Kim used her coursework at Harvard to design our model, with the support of the foremost scholars in the field, making Early Partners a truly research-backed program. She has lived in New Orleans for nearly 16 years and loves going to festivals with her family. Kim currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Newcomb Alumnae Association. She is passionate about access for communities of color to play-based, developmentally appropriate early learning. Kim is a working mom with two children, the younger of whom is enrolled at Early Partners. You can reach Kim at kim@earlypartners.org.

Meet our Operations Manager!

Kristen "Kris" Williams (she/her) is the Operations Manager at Early Partners. Kristen was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana and has over a decade of experience in early care and education. She has an A.D. in Applied Science in Care and Development of Young Children and is currently pursuing her B.A. She is passionate about creating operational systems that support teachers to encourage children’s curiosity and explore new and exciting materials. Kristen is a working mom with two kids: an 8th grader and a newborn. She and her daughter enjoy going to the park, riding bikes, feeding ducks, puzzles, and grabbing a snowball from Plum Street. You can reach Kris at kristen@earlypartners.org.

Meet our Instructional Support Teacher!

Emma Raynor (she/her) is the Instructional Support Teacher at Early Partners. Emma has a a B.A. in American Studies from the University of Michigan and over a decade of teaching experience in Preschool-Kindergarten in New Orleans. Emma boasted the highest CLASS scores in the City while teaching at Bricolage Academy and was a founding EP Teacher. Emma believes access to high quality early childhood education is one of the most important steps in creating truly equitable communities. She is excited to support teachers to develop a program rooted in anti-racist pedagogy, creativity and learning through play. She is also a photographer and a ceramicist who loves to spend time walking and biking in City Park, and catching up with a second line. You can reach Emma at emma@earlypartners.org.

Meet the Iris Teachers!

Keisha Rogers (she/her) and Abby Bradford (she/her) are the Iris Class (PreK4) Teachers. Keisha has CDA and 5 years of experience in mental health and early care and education. She is passionate about reflective practice and meeting the needs of all learners. Abby has over 10 years of teaching experience, most recently at NOLA Nature School, and a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Louisiana State University where she studied Reggio-inspired, play-based learning. Both Iris Teachers are working moms, and Abby's son is in the Sunflower Class at Early Partners. You can reach Keisha at keisha@earlypartners.org and Abby at abby@earlypartners.org.

Meet the Marigold Teachers!

Erin Regan (she/her) and Dana Griffin (she/her) are the Marigold Class (PreK3-4) Teachers. Erin has an Associate's Degree in Care and Development of Young Children, a CDA, and over a decade of experience in early childhood education, most recently as the Curriculum Director at Abeona House. Dana holds a B.A. from Southern University and an A.D. in Early Childhood Education and has over 20 years of experience in early care and education. Both Marigold Teachers are working moms, and Erin's son is in the Sunflower Class at Early Partners. You can reach Erin at erin@earlypartners.org and Dana at dana@earlypartners.org.

Meet the Hibiscus Teachers!

Ta'Jah Johnson (she/her) and Ana Treffinger (she/her) are the Hibiscus Class (PreK3) Teachers. Ta'Jah has an A.D. and over 5 years of experience teaching infants-3rd grade, most recently at Audubon Gentily. She is currently pursuing her B.A. Ana has over 5 years of teaching experience with toddlers-Kindergarten and a B.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She taught at Little Gate at McGehee and Lycee Francais, before becoming a founding teacher at EP. You can reach Ta'Jah at tajah@earlypartners.org and Ana at ana@earlypartners.org.

Meet the Magnolia Teachers!

Allison Manker and Shada Lassai are the Magnolia Class (Toddler 2) Teachers. Allie has a B.S. from Northwestern University and has over 13 years of experience in education as a camp director of the YMCA, early childhood teacher at Little Gate at McGehee, and most recently as the Lower & Middle School STEAM Teacher at the Louise S McGehee School. Shada has a C.D.A. and over 5 years of experience in education, as a preschool teacher and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist. Shada is a working mom, with her youngest child in the Sunflower Class at Early Partners. You can reach Allie at allison@earlypartners.org and Shada at shada@earlypartners.org.

Meet the Sunflower Teachers!

Qiana Dooley (she/her) , Erica McKee (she/her) , and Dreka Adams (she/her) are the Sunflower Class (Toddler 1s) Teachers. As a mom of 4 kids, Qiana has plenty of experience with children and is excited to enter into the early childhood education field. Erica is a Founding EP Teacher with a B.A. in General Studies and over 5 years of experience in early care and education. She is a working mom with two girls who benefit from their creative mom! Dreka has a B.A. in Social Work and a background in mental health. You can reach Erica at erica@earlypartners.org and Dreka at dreka@earlypartners.org.

Meet Our Board of Directors!

Jean Paul (JP) Hymel - Chair

JP is the President of Gallo Mechanical, and he serves as Chief Executive Officer of Gallo Mechanical Services and Sheet Metal Systems. Gallo Mechanical is a commercial HVAC (Air Conditioning & Heating) and Plumbing contractor with clients throughout the Gulf Coast – including:  the Louisiana Superdome, the University Medical Center, Loyola University, LSU, the Four Seasons Hotel & Residences, and many other commercial, institutional, and industrial clients.


Prior to joining Gallo Mechanical, JP served as North American Business Development Director for Johnson Controls specializing in Public Private Partnerships. His local clients included: Tulane University, Dillard University, and Louisiana State University. During his time with Johnson Controls, JP successfully developed innovative financial contracting structures allowing clients to purchase construction and service offerings without the need for up-front capital.


JP enjoys serving his local community. JP is the past Board Chair for Crescent City Schools and serves on several boards including the Academy of the Sacred Heart Board of Trustees, Tulane School of Architecture Advisory Council, the Tulane City Center Advisory Council, the Cowen Institute Advisory Council, and the Christopher Homes Board. JP is President of the Maisonette Condominium Association and past member of the Tulane Alumni Association Board of Directors, the UNO Engineering Advisory Council, the Newcomb-Tulane College Advisory Council, and the St. Francis of Assisi Pastoral Council.


After graduating from Tulane University as an Electrical Engineer, JP served in the US Air Force as an Electronics Warfare Engineer.  While in the Air Force, he received his MBA from Georgia College & State University. JP, his wife (Erin), and his daughters (Louise & Lucille) live in New Orleans.

Nikki Cousizan - Treasurer

Nikki is the VP of Finance & Administration at Agenda for Children. She has more than fifteen years of experience in nonprofit finance and more than ten years of experience in executive leadership. Prior to Agenda, she was the CFO of a Federally Qualified Health Center in Houston, TX where she was responsible for the financial management of an organization that offered a wide range of healthcare and social services for indigent, under-served and disenfranchised individuals in the greater Houston Area. In 2015 Nikki was selected as a Top 50 Black Health, Medical & Wellness Professional in Houston, TX. Nikki is also actively involved and committed to community service and empowerment. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Nikki has an MBA from Prairie View A&M, a B.S. in Accounting from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and, a B.S. in Finance from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Nikki has also attended the UCLA Anderson School of Management and Johnson & Johnson Health Care Executive Program and Leadership Iberia.

Amanda Berger - Secretary

Amanda is an advocate and attorney. Her passions include the environment, children and education. She has worked as a real estate attorney for the past ten years.  Amanda is honored to serve as a board member of Early Partners. In addition, she currently serves as the Development Chair on the Board of Directors of Son of a Saint.  She previously served on the Board of Directors for Austin Achieve Public Schools, a charter school in Austin, Texas.  Amanda received her undergraduate degree in finance from Auburn University and law degree from Loyola University - New Orleans.  Amanda resides in New Orleans with her husband, Ryan, and two young daughters, Lillian and Grace.

Jerel Bryant

Jerel is the Principal of George Washington Carver High School and the incoming CEO of Collegiate Academies. Like Carver itself, Jerel is known for his resilience. Jerel is proud to serve the communities that he has the opportunity to support here in New Orleans. As Carver’s principal since 2012, Jerel has been working to advance and preserve the school’s legacy as a long standing pillar within the Desire community and the Upper Ninth Ward. Teach For America brought Jerel to New Orleans in 2007, where he taught middle school English Language Arts for two years in Central City. Jerel joined Collegiate Academies’ team in 2009 as a Civics teacher at Sci Academy. As a humanities teacher and dean, his teaching directly contributed to sophomore mastery on their Graduate Exit Exam. In 2020, Jerel was the inaugural recipient of the Teach for America’s Collective National Advisory Board’s School Leader Honor, which recognizes the breadth and depth of his impact on Carver, Collegiate Academies, and the national education landscape. Jerel received his B.A. in History from Yale.

Walt Leger

Walt is experienced attorney, business executive, and speaker with a demonstrated history of working as a civil litigator and criminal prosecutor and in government as a State Legislator and in the non-profit community. He is celebrated for pragmatism and effectiveness. An expert in Legislative Affairs and strategic planning with strong relationships in the business community and in local, State and Federal Government, his particular areas of expertise are include economic development, tourism and hospitality industry, fiscal matters, tax and budget, healthcare, education, public safety, and the civil and criminal legal systems. Between 2008-2020, Walt authored more legislation that eventually became law than any other member of the Louisiana Legislature.

Paris Woods

Paris brings more than 15 years of education leadership experience in public and private high school, college, and nonprofit settings to Early Partners. She relocated to New Orleans in 2013 to launch the alumni support program for New Orleans College Prep and later co-founded and served as executive director of College Beyond. As a nonprofit leader, Paris raised more than $1 million to support New Orleans youth. During that time, she garnered numerous awards, including the Gambit’s 40 under 40, the Millennial Award in education, and recognition as a Tulane Hometown Hero and YLC Role Model. Paris earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard University and is currently a doctoral student in the Executive EdD program at the University of Texas at Austin. She also is the author of The Black Girl’s Guide to Financial Freedom: Build Wealth, Retire Early, and Live the Life of Your Dreams (2021).